When one thinks of chilli-chicken, Chinese cuisine immediately comes to mind. My travels to India have taught me that this is very much an Indo-Chinese dish and is very popular as non-veg Indian fare through the length and breadth of India. I especially enjoyed this cuisine in the south of India where Chettinad cuisine, introduced by the Chettiar family of spice merchants and is considered to be the spiciest and most aromatic in all of India, reigns. Chilli chicken is one of the dishes that have made its mark in the Indo-Chinese cuisine. This dish is unique to India adapting the Indo-Chinese spices and flavors. As such there is no standard recipe of Chilli chicken and everyone uses their culinary skills to make their own version of this popular dish.
Chilli Chicken is a dish made of bite-sized pieces of boneless chicken mixed with chillies, finely chopped ginger and garlic, sometimes onion and other Indo- Chinese spices to make a spicy Indian flair dish along with the distinct traditional Chinese flavors. Indo-Chinese cuisine refers to Indian-styled Chinese cooking, takes popular Chinese dishes and adding simple Indian ingredients to it and making it decadently Indian tasting.
This is my version of this taste-bud tantalising meal which includes baby spinach. Vegetable popular in this meal is green and red peppers, celery and onion. The spices may be adjusted or omitted to suit individual tastes. A little vinegar, added, gives it a tangy flavour. Soy or Tamari is an option for those who include it in their diets. Preservative and sugar free fish sauce may also be used to add to the flavouring.
Chilli Chicken is spicy, flavourful , aromatic and an absolute must-try for those who share an appreciation of Indo-Chinese cuisine.
350g skinless, boneless chicken breast
200g young fresh spinach leaves
1-2 tablespoons ghee or sesame oil
1/4 tsp turmeric
½ tsp chilli powder
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
1/2 tsp ground cumin
2-4 fresh garlic cloves, finely chopped
slivered fresh ginger
2-4 spring onions, chopped
125ml water or chicken stock
1 tblsp tomato puree
1-3 fresh green or red chillies (cayenne), seeded and cut into strips
1 tsp garam masala
2-4 tablespoons chopped fresh coriander leaves
Himalayan salt to taste
Optional: raw cashew nuts
Cut the chicken into bite-sized pieces
- Wash the spinach thoroughly and tear it large bite-sized pieces.
- Heat the oil in a wok or pot. Add the cumin seeds, turmeric, chilli and cumin powders and stir-fry briskly for 20 seconds. Add 2-3 tablespoons water and stir well, then add the garlic, ginger and spring onions and stir-fry for about 2 minutes.
- Add the stock or more water and stir in to tomato puree. As soon as the liquid begins to simmer, add the chicken pieces [if preferred, the chicken pieces may be lightly tossed in arrowroot powder and shallow flash fried for a crunchy texture] and the fresh chilli. Simmer for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally
- Add half the spinach, and stir it in gently. When it wilts, add the remaining spinach and stir briefly lower the heat, and simmer gently for about five minutes
- Add the garam masala, coriander and salt to taste. Stir-fry a few minutes, or until the chicken is cooked through.
- Serve immediately, with a crisp fresh onion, tomato, and fresh coriander sambal / salsa mix or as a chilli chicken fried rice, with cauliflower rice, or even better, as chilli chicken chow mein, with veggie noodles.